When I met Chris Pirillo for the first time at Gnomedex, I apologized for not getting down on my knees and doing the hero worshiping thing, because (as I told him) I both suck at it and I’m not the least bit interested in doing so. The context of the comment was meant to be humorous, but the content itself was accurate: I don’t do hero worshiping, and I’m bad at pretending to.
Now Chris Pirillo perhaps deserves some hero worshiping, if only for remaining a down to earth, normal guy who finds it hard to go to the shitter without 2000 people asking for details on his live stream (he also runs a kickass conference). But many others don’t deserve it. In overcoming heritage media, and falsely constructed ideals of celebrity delivered to us by marketing machines, we have only created new heroes, instead of abandoning the idea altogether.
It doesn’t sit well with me. Both that collectively we blindly hero worship the flawed, or even that some should seek to place me on a similar pedestal.
I’ve written previously that I don’t do “celebrity pictures,” or as a so nicely put it, I’m not a camera whore. I’ve met many “famous” people along my path to the point in time. When I worked at the WACA I’d met or spoken to, briefly or sometimes longer, most of the Australian Cricket Team, many who wanted tickets to the members and were told to come and see me. In my years in politics, I’ve pissed next to the then Prime Minister, watched at close quarters the then Treasurer get so ratfaced he couldn’t deliver his speech without slurring his words. I’ve shaken hands at one stage or another with most of the Cabinet, and I’d even fought over policy at conferences with guys who went on to become senior ministers. I’ve sat in a car, drunk with, or emailed a good portion of the past Liberal leaders in Western Australia. Can I say though, for all this name dropping, I wasn’t on a first name basis with most of these people, where as she who must be obeyed was on the politics side.
In tech, I’ve flirted around the edges of the fame game, having shook hands with guys like Kevin Rose and Mark Zuckerberg, and probably a whole pile of other people as well.
Guess what: sorry to be crude, but I just don’t give a shit about having met them.
They are all people, flawed people who through a combination of skill, luck and often ruthlessness and pure personal drive, have succeeded.
At some stages in the past, I’ve been called an “A-List” blogger, although this has tended to be seasonal, given that I was on the B-List for a long time. It wasn’t enough for me to get a speaking gig at the Blog World Expo, so it may not count for much 🙂 But more seriously, there is little difference between me and most bloggers. Where I am today has as much to do with luck, beer, and pure stupidity as it does with skill. Lets see: I was indecisive about what to blog about in 2002, so I decided to blog about blogging before anyone else was, and it just happened to be the right place, right time. On a whim, I sent out an email that ended up resulting in b5media. I was on a non-compete and had no idea what I was going to do next when Arrington emailed me, probably because after the Natalia Del Conte thing, no one in their right minds would have worked at TechCrunch at that time. I could have stayed at TechCrunch (before things turned sour, which was 1 month after I left..before then I was always a loyal and dutiful 110% team member), and asked Arrington for more money, or better still, some equity in TechCrunch that he boasted in the press that everyone who worked for him got, but was never extended to me. I’m sure she who must be obeyed would have preferred that I would have done that, but instead, I picked a completely unproven mix on a blog, with a smallish budget, and hoped for the best, when I could have picked any specific vertical and would have probably been delivering 3x as many page views today (indeed more if I’d gone into celeb blogging f/t).
I am completely and utterly insane, with some serious luck thrown in for measure.
I’d lie that there weren’t times where I have found the attention flattering, and that there have been some great times along the way. And yet I’m really not any different to most people I meet.
I laugh sometimes when people meet me in person and say things along the lines of “I didn’t know what you’d be like in person, but you’re really not that bad/ ok.” I shouldn’t laugh, it scares me that people could think that.
And yet, sometimes leading has a positive side. In my Blog Herald days, my best moments were when people emailed me and said that I’d inspired them to start blogging. I have no idea how many people that holds true for, but even if it was 5 people, that’s 5 people I gave the gift of blogging to. I take great joy today when people say that they’ve tried Disqus because I’m using them, and that they’re seeing more comments on their blogs, or to the companies I wrote about at TechCrunch, who used my post as a springboard to greater things. I feel a need to inject realism into debates, pointing out to many in the echochamber that there is a world outside Web 2.0…whether they take it onboard is another thing. I’ve done a dozen speaking gigs or more in the last 2 years, where I’ve tried to share the gift of social media to others, and afterwards people have come up and said that hearing me speak has inspired them to try. That’s the good side of attention.
Perhaps we do need leaders, heroes, champions. But there is a line, one between respect/ inspiration and false idolatry. I’m never going to handle fame, on any extent well, but god help me if it ever goes to me head. If there is one message I can deliver: you can do it to. I’m proof positive that it can be done 🙂